WORD PICTURES OF THE CHURCH LOCATED
IN THE DEVIL'S CITY
The only difference between this city and hell is that we have a few Christians and an ocean. That's what I heard someone say about an East Coast town. Jesus calls the City of Pergamum "the place where Satan's seat is." Follow as we develop seven word pictures related to the church in this city.
I. A PICTURE OF THE CITY. vs 12 a; 13 a; and 13 d.
The Lord calls this city the place "where Satan's throne is;". . .and. . ."where Satan dwells." That is a very strong statement about the evil of a city. Jesus is saying, you not only live where evil exists, but where evil has its throne. There are several reasons suggested for the Lord's remarks.
First, Pergamum was the capital city of this section of the Roman Empire. It was the city of greatest influence from a governmental standpoint. Since Caesar demanded the people to say, "Caesar is Lord," this may have been why it was called the city of Satan's throne.
Secondly, there were in this city 4 great temples, one for each of the 4 greatest gods of the Greeks. They had a temple for (1) Zeus. He was supposed to be the head of all gods. (2) Dinoysisus, the god of wine and drama. (3) Athena, the goddess of Wisdom in art and war. (4) Aesculapius, the god of healing. This may be the reason it is called the city of Satan's throne.
Thirdly, there was a huge altar built on the jutting edge of
the highest point of the city. One author suggests the altar was 90 feet
square and between 20 and 40 feet high. This may be the reason this city
was called the City of Satan's throne.
II. A PICTURE OF THE CHRIST. v 12 b
Jesus describes Himself to this church as "The One who has the sharp
two-edged sword." There are several interpretations suggested. I believe
the best interpretation has the two-edged sword being that of
1) judgment from His Word. 2) Condemnation from His Word. This means the church and the City can expect comfort from God and His Word when they are obedient. It also means they can expect judgment when they are disobedient. Ray Summers suggests this can also be a comforting message to the church. The comfort would be that they need not fear the sword of the Emperor if they acknowledge Jesus as Lord. His two-edged sword is more powerful.
III. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH COMMENDED. v 13 b
The Lord commended this church for two areas of their work. First, He commended them for holding fast His Name. This means they reverentially held high the name of Jesus. They would not compromise His name. The Greek carries the idea of seizing His name and really holding on to it. They wouldn't trade His name or link it with the pagan gods of Pergamum.
The Lord commended this church secondly because "they did not deny My faith.". . .It seems to follow that a church who holds high the name of Jesus will also refrain from denying the faith.
As I remember, it was John Peterson who wrote a beautiful song about Jesus. The publishers were excited about the song possibilities, but they wanted to change one word. They wanted to take Jesus' name and replace it with a ladies names. They offered a large sum of money, but John refused. As he left their office, Satan whispered in his ear, "you're a fool, it's only a song." But then he heard Jesus say, "Thanks, John."
How does this apply to you and I? We have the opportunity every
day to hold up the name of Jesus.
IV. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH CONDEMNED. vs. 14, 15
This church is condemned. First because "they have some who hold the teachings of Balaam." The church as a whole did not believe or practice this doctrine, but she allowed her fellowship those who did. What is Balaamism? In Numbers 23-24, one will find that Balaam was willing to make material gain at the cost of the spiritual loss. He led the way to idol worship and impure living for Israel. Because of this, Balaam became synonymous with evil in Jewish tradition.
Balaam probably encouraged the idea that since Israel was God's covenant people, they could do as they pleased. At Pergamum there were some who held that one could be a Christian and live like the world. That was dangerous doctrine then and it remains so today. Vance Havner said "There have never been Balaamites in our churches than now. We call them 'worldly' Christians."
Secondly, this church was condemned because some held the teachings
of Nicolaitans. This teaching was very similar to Balaamism. However, their
actions appear to have been similar to the Gnostics who taught separation
of matter and spirit. The Greek word for "NICOLAITAN" comes from two terms,
NIKAO, to conquer, and LAOS, people; and the meaning, conquerors of the
people. The Hebrew for this term would interpret to our words, destroyer
of the people. Whereas the church in Ephesus hated the deeds of these folds,
Pergmum tolerated them. Because they tolerated them, they were guilty of
A church in Western Missouri had a deacon living in open sin. The pastor did not call for a Biblical confrontation with this man. This deacon continued to live in sin and that more pronounced. The pastor then reluctantly dealt with it. The other deacons joined him, then the church. The deacon repented and a revival broke out in this church.
How does this apply to you?
V. A PICTURE OF THE REMEDY. v. 16
The remedy is repentance. The word repentance is in the aorist tense and is an imperative. It is a command to repent immediately. Repentance means to change your mind, hear and attitude. The Balaamite-Nicolaitans were to repent of their deeds immediately. The church was to repent of its failure to deal with these problems.
If the church didn't do what it was supposed to do, the Lord would do it for them. "Repent or else. I'm coming to you in judgment," is what the Lord was saying. Worldly Christians can have the judgment of the church or the direct judgment of Christ. Christ will also judge the church who doesn't heed His instruction. Read I Cor, 11:31
A railroad ran from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs. It had a drop of four thousand feet in this distance. Derailing switches were all along the way. If a single car got loose and started down the tracks it might destroy a whole train of cars. So when this happened the trainman would wire ahead and a switchman would throw the derailing switch and the car would be thrown off the track. The history of the world is filled with derailing switches. When nations forget God, He derails them into oblivion.
How does this apply to you?
VI. A PICTURE OF COMMAND. v. 17 a
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
This is the command to those who have spiritual ears. You are to hear what
the Lord has said. He spoke to John. Then John wrote and the Spirit has
spoken through that word today. What will be your response to this command?
VII. A PICTURE OF PROMISE. V 17 B, C
Two promises are given. First, hidden manna is promised to those who overcome. The O. T. background for manna is found in Eph. 16:4-5 & 35. The people of this city knew this background and realized the contrast the Lord was making. They were not to eat foods from the pagan altars of their city. God had heavenly bread for them. It was hidden manna and the significance of the word 'hidden' lies in the fact that manna had been put in the ark so future generations would know how and what God had fed them.. Since the ark was hidden or lost, the manna was hidden from man. But Jesus knew where it was.
Secondly, overcomers are promised a white stone. The significance of this is suggested by Ran Summers. "Pergamum engaged in the mining of white stone and the use of it as a commercial product. The use of a piece of this stone with a name on it was varied." He lists four possible ways this reference of the Lord can be understood.
The white stone was given to a man who had been tried and justly acquitted. He carried it as a sign that he was free of the charge of crime which had been placed against him.
The white stone was given to a man who was freed from slavery and made a citizen of the province. He carried the stone as an indication of his citizenship.
The white stone was given to the winner of a race or contest as an indication that he had overcome opposition. The white stone was given to a warrior returning from battle with victory over the enemy.
Perhaps all four of the above are interrelated as the Lord applies this to the faithful. But without doubt, it was a sacred promise to these folks and inspired increased loyalty.
There is a way to bear a load and a way not to bear a load. Often it isn't the load that weighs us down, it is the way we carry it. Have you ever noticed South Americans carrying two pots of water hanging from the ends of a pole? The pole is balanced across their shoulders. It has length and flexibility which allows it to bend when they must step over a rock or limb, or cross over a rough place along the path. With balance and skill they do the work of two or three others. They have learned how to carry a load.
How does this apply to you?
The Pergamum church was commended for: 1) Holding fast the name of Jesus.
2) Not denying My faith. They were condemned for compromise and failing to deal with sinful practices. They were commanded to hear the message of the Lord and promised a blessing.
This message applies to our church and individual members. As it applies
to you, respond to the invitational hymn.
Email Preach Him with Dr. Jim
Return to Preach Him Sermon Index Page
Return to Preach Him Home Page
Go to Preach Him Links Page
And Beyond. Amen? Amen!